Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Wake to Sleep to Sleep in Longer!

Here’s a technique that can help you shift your baby’s wake up time.  Have you heard of “wake to sleep”?  It’s a technique coined by the Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hoagg, or at least that’s where I heard of it.

If your baby is continually waking up at 5 am, she has developed a habitual wake up, so she may be waking up at this time even if she’s still tired, out of habit rather than hunger, or perhaps after a bout of teething.

Generally if your baby wakes up at the same time every night then it habit.  For example, 3:50 am, 4:00 am, 4:10 am, are all around the same time. Or you baby might wake up at exactly 3:30 am every night.  This is a sign of habit.  If the time shifts around then its more likely to be hunger.

The night time sleep cycles are about 3 hours in length.  They cycle through one 3 hour cycle, surface, and then go down into another 3 hour sleep cycle.  At a habitual 3 am wake up they are ‘surfacing”, but their body is used to waking up.  The idea with the “wake to sleep” technique is to manipulate when they “surface” so you can get them into another sleep cycle.  I use 3 am as an example but it could be the 5 am wake up for the day!

Wake to Sleep to Sleep in Longer!

How “wake to sleep” works is that you gently rouse your baby to be in a “surfacing” state, a state of semi consciousness.  The purpose is to manipulate the “surfacing” period and hence the sleep cycle.

You enter your baby’s room 1 hour before the habitual wake up normally occurs.  So if it’s a 5 am wake up you are dealing with, you would enter the room at 4 am.  Your goal is not to wake your baby up, but merely have her “surface”.  This is accomplished when you see her twitch, move a limb or rotate her head, or sigh.  You may touch her arm lightly, or even opening the door may cause the stir.  You don’t want hers eyes to open, and you don’t want to wake her up.  This manipulated surfacing will put her into another sleep cycle, and have her sleep past her habitual waking time.

You can also use this for babies who are well rested but have developed a habit of waking up 45 minutes into a nap.  You can do the wake to sleep at 20 minutes into a 45 minute nap to bump her into another sleep cycle.

This technique takes 3 – 5 days to be effective.  It can be used with babies and toddlers.

Summary of when “wake to sleep” can be used:

  1. Habitual night waking
  2. Early wake ups
  3. Nap extensions

Summary of how to do “wake to sleep:’

  1. Go into the room 1 hour before the habitual waking time.
  2. Gently rouse, but don’t fully awaken.  Looking for a deep sigh or a movement of a body part to know you have been successful.
  3. Takes 3 – 5 days to work.

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